According to the State of African Youth Report, the population of young people aged 15 to 35 in 2018 was estimated to be 453 million. Many of them have engaged very little with the history of the African Union and of the continent at large, except during brief history classes. The Africa Day continues to be marked in a handful of countries leaving majority of Africans unaware of the vision championed by the AU founding fathers. This blog post briefly presents some of the key African leaders who were at the foundation of the Organization of African Unity, which later became the African Union.  


The OAU was established with the express objective of working towards the greater unity of the African continent while at the same time ensuring that the remaining colonies on the African continent are assisted to achieve their freedom and independence. It is important to recall the fact that the Founding Fathers of the OAU had their own vision for Africa and this vision was inspired by the Pan-African Movement philosophy which centered on African socialism and promoted African unity, the communal characteristic and practices of African communities and a drive to embrace Africa’s culture and common heritage.

The founding fathers included; Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Sekou Touré of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Ben Bella of Algeria, Emperor Haile Selasse of Ethiopia, William Tubman of Liberia, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya.

Selected excerpts from speeches of OAU Founding members



A whole continent has imposed a mandate upon us to lay the foundation of our union at this conference. It is our responsibility to execute this mandate by creating here and now, the formula upon which the requisite superstructure may be created.

On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference.

From the start we have been threatened with frustration where rapid change is imperative and with instability where sustained effort and ordered rule are indispensable. No sporadic act nor pious resolution can resolve our present problems. Nothing will be of avail, except the united act of a united Africa.



This world was not created piecemeal. Africa was born no later and no earlier than any other geographical area on this globe. Africans, no more and no less than other men, possess all human attributes, talents and deficiencies, virtues and faults. Thousands of years ago, civilizations flourished in Africa which suffer not at all by comparison with those of other continents. In those centuries, Africans were politically free and economically independent. Their social patterns were their own and their cultures truly indigenous.

What we require is a single African organisation through which Africa’s single voice may be heard, within which Africa’s problems may be studied and resolved. We need an organisation which will facilitate acceptable solutions to disputes among Africans and promote the study and adoption of measures for common defence and programmes for co-operation in the economic and social fields. Let us, at this Conference, create a single institution to which we will all belong, based on principles to which we all subscribe, confident that in its councils our voices will carry their proper weight, secure in the knowledge that the decisions there will be dictated by Africans and only by Africans and that they will take full account of all vital African considerations.



We did not come here to discover whether we all want a free Africa. Even the greatest enemies of African unity know that the one thing on which there can be no doubt that the whole of Africa speaks with one sincere voice, it is our desire to see an Africa completely freed from foreign domination and racialism. We came here to find out what we should all do now in order to bring about the final liberation of Africa……We did not come here to discover whether we want African unity. Again even our enemies know that we sincerely desire unity. It is their fear of the consequences to them of complete African unity, which makes them emphasize our differences and hope – wishfully – that these differences will make it impossible for Africa to unite. No, we did not come here to find out whether we desire unity. We came here to find out our common denominator in our approach to African unity.

The OAU’s basic principles included promotion of solidarity among African states, improved quality of life for Africans, a promise to defend the sovereignty of African states, and eradication of colonialism in all its forms. The OAU hoped to achieve these goals through cooperation and peaceful negotiation between its members.

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